Park Ridge, a suburb northwest of Chicago is careening into mediocrity thanks to teardowns that are turning a once-elegant neighborhood into a fast-buck boomtown, a Wild West municipality.
They tore down a Barry Byrne house Monday because contractors (several of them) told them they could get a new house for the same price as rehabbing and adding on to the old house. That is true, if the contractors lack skill.
Fact of the matter: Your new pressboard, gypsum and formaldehyde house with plastic windows can’t last a third as long as the one you already had (clay tile construction – brick basically). You just traded a 1923 Studebaker for a ’07 Kia. You been hustled. Bad.
The photo says Contractor Greed but it isn’t really that simple. There is also laziness. Most contractors in a teardown-happy town like Park Ridge already have had one or two McFinger McMansions approved and they can recycle the plans. It is always easier to build new, requires much less brain work, much less skill. Yes, it is cheaper if you don’t need new plans or you don’t have to pay experienced tradespersons, so greed is definitely there. But there is a fair admixture of laziness.
Barry Byrne was arguably the most original architect trained by Frank Lloyd Wright, a lifelong running friend of Wright’s sons John and Lloyd, a lifelong collaborator with Alfonso Ianelli, one of Chicago’s greatest sculptors (he did the Prudential Rock you know, and the sprites from Midway Gardens in everyone’s backyard). This demolition destroys not one house but five, since they were designed as a group. Now the others are ready to demolish, and one of the three Harold Zook houses next door is for sale and the realtors say it is a teardown too.
Paint the town red. This ain’t no place to live – it is a place to make a fast buck and get the hell out before they start shooting.